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15.07.14 Legislation to fight against organised crime in Georgia did not broke the European Convention


In today’s Chamber judgement in the case of Ashlar v. Georgia (application no. 45554/08), which is

not final (under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this Chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery,

any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges

considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final

judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day), the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: no violation of Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case concerned the precision and foreseeability of a law which punishes individuals for their membership of a criminal syndicate and which was introduced in Georgia in 2005 as part of a legislative package aiming to fight against the organized criminal underworld.

The Court held in particular that the offenses prescribed by the Georgian legislature from 2005, namely that of being a member of the “thieves’ underworld” – a powerful network of organised crime syndicates operating throughout the post-Soviet countries – and of being a “thief in law”, were concepts already well known to the Georgian public at large. Furthermore, the provision introducing these crimes to the Georgian Criminal Code formed part of a wider legislative package, sections of which comprehensively explained the definition of these already well-known colloquial terms to the public.

Therefore the laws criminalising behavior suggesting a person’s membership of the “thieves’ underworld” and of being a “thief in law” were sufficiently precise and foreseeable. 

Text of decision: